We’ve come a long way in Hollywood… or have we? They’ve Gotta Have Us is artist and photographer, Simon Frederick’s highly anticipated follow-up to his successful 2017 docu-series, Black Is The New Black. Frederick tackles this question in a BBC Two series, giving us a unique insight into the film industry from some of its biggest names.
The series charts the revolutionary rise in just a lifetime of black actors and filmmakers as they have gone from being the backdrop or disposable, to calling the shots.
This unique three-part series is the inside story of the biggest turning points, the triumphs and heartbreaks of black life on both sides of the lens, from Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, to the present-day triumph of Moonlight at the Oscars and Black Panther at the box office and confirms what black artists already knew; the talent and creativity was always there, underscored by a rich and meaningful oral history.
Throwing off the shackles of Hollywood’s racial stereotyping, the renaissance has taken much longer than anyone could have imagined. But as They’ve Gotta Have Us reveals, this hard-won freedom has finally ushered in a new dawn. Contributors include filmmakers and actors such as Barry Jenkins, Jesse Williams, John Boyega, Don Cheadle, David Oyelowo, Debbie Allen, Diahann Carroll, Nelson George, Will.i.am, John Singleton and Natalie Emmanuel.
In the first episode, film buffs will enjoy seeing the most revered and celebrated professionals to have graced the silver screen: Harry Belafonte (91), Earl Cameron (101) and Diahann Carroll (83) share honest, candid recollections about what it was like to be a pioneer in a white world.
Speaking to Huff Post about why he wanted to make the series, Simon Frederick, said: “I am an artist and I knew that if I could have a conversation with fellow artists about their lives, there would be a story to be told.” “If you talk to an artist about their art, what you’re really talking to them about is their lives.”
Frederick continued: “One thing that we have found in the making of this programme is that every one of the filmmakers – whether it’s John Singleton with Boyz N Da Hood, any of Spike Lee’s films from Do The Right Thing to She’s Gotta Have It – they were told there’s no audience to make that film for.
“We (black filmmakers) are constantly told ‘no, this isn’t going to work’. But as any artistic endeavour that comes out of struggle has done, it goes on, it makes money and in time becomes the thing that everyone ends up revering in the end.”
The series does a great job of mirroring the Black experience in almost every walk of life. We still have to work 10 times as hard to get a seat at the table. While we are still a long way from where we ought to be, because of the pioneer filmmakers and actors who came before, and the efforts of today’s talents, we can.
They’ve Gotta Have Us: showing on BBC 2 on 13, 20 and 27 October 2018. Catch it on BBC iPlayer here.